West Indies' home series against India is over and it's time for the biggest party in town to begin again. With the inclusion of some of the biggest T20 stars, this season's CPL promises to throw up more thrills. Here's why you need to look forward to the tournament.
West Indies' superstars on show
Trinbago Knight Riders' roster drips with depth and class, especially after the addition of Kieron Pollard, who had captained St Lucia Stars the previous season. Having turned out for Barbados Tridents and St Lucia in the past, Pollard will represent his home franchise for the first time in the CPL. With designated captain Dwayne Bravo set to miss the start of the season due to a finger injury, Pollard, the most-capped T20 player, will lead TKR on his debut for the franchise.
Chris Gayle's international career might be over - or maybe not - but he is ready to resume his CPL career with his home franchise Jamaica Tallawahs as their marquee player. Gayle had previously led Tallawahs to their two titles in 2013 and 2016, and also top-scored in both those finals against Guyana Amazon Warriors. Can Gayle lead Jamaica to their third title and emulate TKR?
Lendl Simmons, like Pollard, will make his first appearance for his home franchise, Trinidad, after being named as a temporary replacement for Colin Munro, who is on international duty in Sri Lanka.
Spotlight on Alex Hales
Jettisoned from England's World Cup squad for recreational drug use, Alex Hales has now set his sights on the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. Hales is currently the top-scorer for Nottinghamshire in the Vitality Blast and is likely to head to the Caribbean and link up with Barbados Tridents after featuring in the knockouts for Nottinghamshire.
Hales will also be among the high-profile names in the Bangladesh Premier League and the Mzansi Super League in South Africa later this year. Despite being left out of the England set-up, Hales was the first pick at the CPL draft earlier this year. A bumper run at the CPL will not only be hard to ignore for the national selectors but also set the scene for his other T20 assignments.
While Barbados have good pace-bowling options in the Holders - Jason and Chemar - and a spin attack built around Sandeep Lamichhane, Ashley Nurse, and West Indies Under-19 left-armer Joshua Bishop, their batting lacks power and depth on paper. Over to you, Alex.
The perfect T20 line-up?
T20 cricket's biggest icon, Rashid Khan, isn't part of this edition, but there are a host of other bona fide T20 stars who can light up the league. If you are looking for a near-perfect T20 side, here's TKR: the Bravos, Pollard, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro, Lendl Simmons and New Zealand seam-bowling allrounder Jimmy Neesham, who was recently part of the Global T20 Canada as well.
Gayle will lead a similar star-studded Jamaica outfit that includes Andre Russell, Jr Andre Russell Rovman Powell, and Oshane Thomas. Carlos Brathwaite will lead a robust St Kitts & Nevis Patriots side that features T20 globetrotters such as Fabian Allen, Evin Lewis and England's Laurie Evans.
The St Lucia franchise is in utter chaos off the field and to add to their woes, the Sri Lanka pair of Lasith Malinga and Niroshan Dickwella will miss the entire tournament. However, they have secured the services of Colin de Grandhomme and Najibullah Zadran and South African tearaway Hardus Viljoen.
Guyana, meanwhile, have a more potent spin attack with legspinners Imran Tahir and Qais Ahmad leading the way. Big-hitting wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran has moved from Barbados and will be Guyana's marquee player.
Launchpad for West Indies hopefuls
Chemar Holder can generate sharp pace and bounce like Jason and is adept at swinging the new ball. Just ask the likes of India A's Mayank Agarwal and Abhimanyu Easwaran, who were at the receiving end of it last month in a four-day fixture.
Chemar's Barbados team-mate Joshua Bishop was recently recognised by the board as the Under-19 Player of the Year, but it remains to be seen if the two rookies can break into a strong bowling attack.
TKR's Mark Deyal, meanwhile, is a rare breed: a mystery-spin-bowling allrounder. Carl Crowe, Narine's spin coach who also works with TKR and Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, has singled out Deyal as an "exciting" talent who can spin the ball both ways with his knuckles. Deyal had also impressed with the bat during his stint for Winnipeg Hawks in the inaugural Global T20 Canada.
What's the CPL without eye-catching over-the-top celebrations? Qais Ahmad's ninja kick, Tabraiz Shamsi's masked man and Brathwaite's Orange Justice dance added much flavour to the tournament in 2018. Shamsi, the master of celebrations, wasn't drafted this season and is likely to turn out for South Africa in India, but expect the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Ali Khan, Sammy, Sheldon Cottrell and Kesrick Williams to keep you entertained.